Protests against the formation of new provinces in West Papua continue as Indonesian Minister claims 82% of Papuans support government plans

The political struggle of indigenous Papuans against the planned formation of three new provinces in West Papua continues on all levels. Thousands of protesters in the regencies Mimika and Dogiyai expressed their opposition to Jakarta’s plans in peaceful demonstrations. At least four protesters were ill-treated and three arrested in the town of Timika as police officers forcefully dispersed one of the demonstrations. A massive demonstration in Dogiyai’s largest town Moanemani took place without interference from the police. A series of peaceful protests against the administrative partitions in West Papua already occurred in early Marchmid-March 2022 and early April 2022.

Meanwhile, members of the Papuan Peoples Assemblies (MRP and MRPB) and the Papuan Provincial Parliament (DPRP) flew to Jakarta to meet with representatives of political parties, parliament members and the Central Government including President Joko Widodo to share the Papuan peoples’ concerns regarding the administrative partitions in West Papua. The Coordinating Minister for Political, Law and Security Affairs, Mr Mahfud MD, claimed during a meeting on 15 April that 82% of the population in the Papua Province were allegedly supporting the formation of new autonomy regions.

Lobby meetings in Jakarta

On 13 April 2022, DPRP members handed over ten documents with aspirations of civil society groups in the Papua Province. According to Mr Yulianus Rumbairusy, a member of the DPRP delegation, the set of documents comprised aspirations in support but also against the establishment of new provinces in West Papua. He elaborated that the protesters had handed over the documents to the DPRP during demonstrations throughout March and April 2022.

Additional lobby meetings against the formation of new provinces were undertaken by a delegation of the MRP and the MRPB in late April 2022. On 20 April 2022, the MRP chairman, Mr Timotius Murib, published a press release according to which the delegation had met with the representatives of the political parties Golkar, Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP), and Amanat Nasional (PAN) in Jakarta. Further meetings with the Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, Mr Airlangga Hartarto, and the Coordinating Minister for Political, Law and Security Affairs, Mr Mahfud MD were also attended by the Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, Mr Usman Hamid. The meetings served the purpose of sharing the aspirations of the Papuan people with political leaders in Jakarta.

Minister Mahfud MD declared during a meeting on 15 April 2022, that the president’s office had conducted a survey to determine the public opinion about the formation of new provinces. He claimed that 82 per cent of the people in the Papua Province were supporting the Government’s plan.

Intellectuals and other civil society representatives in West Papua expressed concerns regarding the validity of the figures given the number of protests against the administrative partitions in all major towns across West Papua throughout March and April 2022. Mahfud MD represented the view that the demonstrations only enjoyed the support of a small minority. He elaborated that opposition from some parts of society in the form of public protests would be a normal thing.

On 25 April 2022, the MRP delegation was reportedly invited to a high-level meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta. The meeting was attended by the Indonesian President, Mr Joko Widodo (aka Jokowi). Jokowi declared that he will respect the decision of the Constitutional Court, which is currently examining a complaint regarding the administrative partition filed by the MRP.  Meanwhile, the legal process for the formation of the process would continue as long as the Constitutional Court had not come to a decision.

Mr Murib declared that the delegation shared the widespread aspirations against the formation of new provinces among indigenous Papuans with the president. The MRP delegation also reported repressive acts against MRP members during consultation meetings which were held to determine the opinion of the indigenous Papuans regarding the prolongation of Special Autonomy Funding in 2020.

Dispersal of peaceful demonstrations in Timika

A peaceful protest against the formation of new provinces in West Papua occurred in the town of Timika, Mimika Regency, on 4 April 2022. Police officers prevented the protesters from walking toward the local parliament building in Timika. Police personnel forcefully dispersed the crowd with tear gas ammunition around 9.00 am. The officers reportedly ill-treated at least four protesters during the crowd control operation. At least three protesters were arrested. They were detained at the Mimika District Police Station and released at 2.00 pm. The police officers reportedly attacked the protesters with rifle butts (see table below). The Mimika Police chief, Mr Era Adhinata, claimed that the protest was a threat to public order and disturbed the Easter Commemorations in Timika.

NoNameExperienced violations
1Ardi MuribOfficer hit him with a rifle butt to the head, causing a bleeding head injury
2Riman OnawameOfficer kicked him to the ribs and the body, he sustained a cut on the right elbow and bruises on the knee
3Okto SaniOfficer hit him with a rifle butt to the forehead causing a bleeding injury, the wound was sewed with 5 stitches
4Onan KobogauSustained bruised knee
5Fredi YeimoArbitrarily arrested and detained
6Noris WakerArbitrarily arrested and detained
7Jeferson TabuniArbitrarily arrested and detained
Table with protesters ill-treated and arrested by police personnel during protests in Timika on 18 April 2022 (source: independent HRDs)

Massive protest in Dogiyai

Thousands of indigenous Papuans from the Dogiyai Regency came together in the town of Moanemani on 29 April 2022. People from the surrounding areas went to the streets and voiced their rejection of the establishment of new provinces in West Papua. The crowd gathered at the Theodorus Makai field and walked to the local parliament in Moanemani, where the protesters sat down and listen to orations. The protest remained peaceful.

An official document containing the aspirations of the indigenous communities in Dogiyai was handed over to local parliament members. Two demands concerned the rejection of new autonomy regions and the revised special autonomy law. Moreover, the protesters voiced their opposition to the establishment of new police and military headquarters in the Dogiyai Regency. The new police headquarters in Dogiyai will be inaugurated in early May.

Video of peaceful protest in Moanemani on 29 April 2022

Detailed Case Data
name of the location: Timika
administrative region: Indonesia, Papua Province, Mimika Regency, Mimika Baru District, Timika town
total number of victims: 7
period of incident: 04.04.2022
perpetrator: police
perpetrator details: unknown
Issues: torture, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
Further HRM News: Police crackdown on protests against new autonomy regions in West Papua – two protesters shot dead, 14 injured, 103 arrested

NumberName, DetailsGenderAgeGroup AffiliationViolations
1Ardi Muribmaleunknownactiviststorture
1Riman Onawamemaleunknownactiviststorture
1Okto Sanimaleunknownactiviststorture
1Onan Kobogaumaleunknownactiviststorture
1Fredi Yeimomaleunknownactivistsarbitrary detention
1Noris Wakermaleunknownactivistsarbitrary detention
1Jeferson Tabunimaleunknownactivistsarbitrary detention